The Birth of Hope

Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the Lord.

Psalm 31:24 NKJV

Christmas Day may be almost a week behind us, but its message of hope to the world still rings strong and true. Let’s enjoy a former post that brings HOPE to the forefront as we ring in 2021.

Do you think Mary dreamed God-given dreams? Perhaps even becoming the Mother of God? From their study of the scriptures, every girl knew of the promise that Messiah would one day be born of a virgin. So, can you imagine her shock when Gabriel appeared, unfolding God’s purpose for her life? Chosen above every other woman, Mary listened as the angel told her she would carry the Promised One, Messiah, in her womb. She even discussed with this heavenly messenger the biological technicality of how this pregnancy were possible, seeing as how she was a virgin. All she had to do was trust God and the Holy Spirit would deposit this immaculate conception inside her—a marvelous mystery of Scripture fulfilled.

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel ~ Isaiah 7:14 NASB.

Like Mary’s physical womb, God fills up our spiritual wombs with godly hope and dreams. We must guard them carefully to avoid spiritual abortion. Our enemy, described as a roaring lion, is secretly lurking to devour us and steal our deepest desires.

But sometimes God may give us a dream and then call us to move. And it may seem to make absolutely no sense.

God moved Mary in the last days of her pregnancy due to a census registration in the land. Instead of staying home in her warm bed surrounded by family and friends, Joseph placed her on the back of a donkey and led her to Bethlehem.

Why did God do that to her at a time so close to her delivery date?

When they arrived, Mary was in hard labor. Although imperative that Joseph find a place for her immediately, even that was tenuous. No room at the inn for a mother-to-be. But a smelly stable full of animals and straw was available. I imagine that Mary was grateful for any place she could lie down and give birth to Jesus, even if it meant being surrounded by a chorus of moos, baas, and neighs of animals witnessing this great event.

The blessing of the birth taking place in Bethlehem is also a fulfillment of Scripture.

‘But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth from Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity’ ~ Micah 5:2 NASB.

It’s easy to understand from a human perspective how a stable in Bethlehem would be God’s perfect plan. In Nazareth, Mary’s reputation was tarnished by this out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Which of those prejudiced townsfolk would have understood that this was the Savior of the World? This great event had to take place where Mary and Joseph were strangers, as well as apart from crowds registering for the census.

The angels appeared in the skies that night to the shepherds in the fields, who came running to witness the miracle told to them. Could that announcement have been possible in Nazareth? With all the gossip during those nine months, perhaps no one would have believed that Messiah, instead of an illigitimate baby, had been born.

God always brings glory to Himself, and that is what He did the night of Jesus’s birth. He glorified His name through the birth of His Son, who was born both fully God and fully man. The sinless One was born to die thirty-three years later for the sins of every person. The time to worship Him is now as we celebrate His divine entrance into the world.

No matter what trials you face in this life, Jesus brings ultimate hope. Like Mary, may you conceive and carry God-given dreams, and may this Christmas season birth in you the hope of heaven.

The Birth of Hope by Karen Jurgens Copyright 2020

The Christmas Star

And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; ”

(Luke 21:25a NKJV)

Did you hear that the Christmas star is reappearing on December 21st?  Saturn and Jupiter will once again come together in the night sky and form what is also called the Bethlehem Star. This sign in the heavens hasn’t been witnessed exactly like this since the 13th century. (Read more HERE.)

But what about the star’s appearance in the first century?

 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’”

Matthew 2:1-2 NKJV

The birth of Christ occurred during an era of political unrest and upheaval, much like our day.

“When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.”

Matthew 2:3-4 NKJV

The chief priests and scribes knew the prophecy well. They told the magi,

“In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel’” (Matthew 2:5-6 NKJV).

Herod’s heart was black with envy and murder. He pinned down the magi about the exact time the star had first appeared. Then he instructed them to report back to him regarding the Child’s whereabouts, pretending that he also wished to worship Him.

This star led the three magi on until it rested above the place sheltering the holy family.  

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

Matthew 2:10-11 NKJV

God supplied the material and spiritual needs for His Son’s thirty-three years on earth. The gold represented His kingship; frankincense for His high priesthood; and myrrh for His suffering and burial.

“Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.”

Matthew 2:12 NKJV

This Christmas season is unlike any the world has experienced. Ever. The political upheaval and worldwide plague we are suffering have led us down a dark path. But on December 21st, great hope will appear in the night’s sky. Look up! We will witness the same star that will lead us, like the magi, to our Lord and Saviour.  May we fall on our knees and worship the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, as we enter into His holy presence. May we give Him our gifts–our whole hearts–and rejoice in the true meaning of this Christmas season.

Let’s commemorate this amazing event together with of my favorite carols, We Three Kings. Reverend John Henry Hopkins, Jr., wrote the lyrics and music in 1857. It was published in Carols, Hymns, and Songs in 1863. Below are the lyrics along with a youtube video from King’s College, Cambridge.

We Three Kings (lyrics)

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Prayer and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God most high

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Earth to heav’n replies

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

Let’s follow the Christmas star, which points the way to peace, hope, and salvation. Wishing you a blessed Christmas season!

Lyricsforchristmas.com

The Christmas Star copyright 2020 by Karen Jurgens

Finding Jesus in Hanukkah

The Hanukkah celebration isn’t just for Jews. If we look closely, we’ll find Jesus Christ, both the Jewish Messiah and Savior of the world, at its very core.

First, some history…

The significance of Hanukkah is embedded in a miracle. The second Temple was rebuilt in Jerusalem following the successful Maccabean revolt against the Greco-Seleucid Empire. The Jews expelled these pagans, after which the Jews purified the Temple. During this Feast of Dedication, eight menorah candles were lighted, one for each day. The flames required sacred olive oil, but there was only enough oil to last one day. In spite of the impossible circumstances, the flames miraculously burned all eight days.

Today, Jews celebrate this minor religious holiday not only to remember this miracle but also to commemorate the victory God gave to Jewish freedom fighters, the Maccabees, in 139 B.C.

Jesus celebrated Hanukkah…

The gospel of John gives us the only account of Jesus during Hanukkah, also called the Feast of Dedication. In John 10, we find Jesus walking in the Temple along Solomon’s porch.

Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, ‘How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly’ ~ John 10:24 NKJV.

This group of unbelievers (much like a lynching mob) didn’t want the truth—they had already decided Jesus was a blasphemer, and they only wanted His words to legally condemn Him. But Jesus responded with a clever answer.

Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one’ ~ John 10:25-30.

Then the Jews took up stones to kill Jesus, claiming their right to do so since He had made Himself equal with God, a sin in Jewish law punishable by death. But Jesus proved His deity another way.

If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him ~ John 10:37-38.

This mob refused to believe Jesus’s miraculous works, which proved His supernatural identity. Instead of waiting for them to cast their stones, Jesus slipped away and withdrew to the region of the Jordan.

But isn’t it ironic that just as the Maccabees had driven unbelievers out of the Jewish Temple, now unbelievers were driving out the Son of God from that very Temple?

Jesus’s true identity…

Jesus claimed to be the light of the world.

He [John] was not that Light but was sent to bear witness of that Light.That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world ~ John 1:8-9.

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life’ ~ John 8:12.

‘As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world ~ John 9:5.

What does Jesus, the light of the world, have in common with this Festival of Lights, beginning at sundown on December 10, 2020, and concluding on December 18th?

The symbol of lights comes from the lighted menorah candles, which burn for eight days and nights. As Hanukkah’s candles light Jewish homes, so Jesus lights the lives of believers.

God created our spirits with a God-shaped vacuum that only He can fill. When we’re born again, the war against unbelief is won, expelled from our hearts. Then our spirit’s “temple” is purified by the blood of the Lamb shed at the cross. The Holy Spirit fills our spiritual “menorah” with His sacred oil and ignites our hearts with the flame of belief. We shine with the eternal light of Jesus living within us, as a lighted lamp for the world to see.

The lamp of the body…

The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light’ ~ Matthew 6:22.

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven’ ~ Matthew 5:14-16.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light ~ Ephesians 5:8.

Final Thoughts…

God provides several prototypes of the miraculous advent of Messiah in the Old Testament. Jewish believers will understand how Jesus shines through the eight candles of the Hanukkah miracle, but now it’s time that Christians also discover this truth. Judaism and Christianity fit together like a hand in a glove.

As we come into this season of Christmas, let’s remember that the light of God came into the world through the birth of His Son, Jesus. May we rejoice, as did the shepherds that Holy Night, in the salvation message the angels brought to earth, announcing that a Savior had been born in Bethlehem.

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’ ~ Luke 2:8-14.

May our eternal spiritual menorahs burn brightly. May all the world see the light of Jesus, our Messiah, shine through our lives. 

Wishing you all a Happy Hanukkah and a Merry Christmas!

Copyright 2020: Finding Jesus in Hanukkah by Author Karen Jurgens: All Rights Reserved